The name of Giuseppe Pino Venetico’s original restaurant venture, Il Pasticcio, translated to “chaos” or “mess,” depending on the dictionary used.
The economic downturn has contributed to a chaotic and messy couple of years for the upscale eatery, most recently known as La Vostra Cucina, at the corner of Broughton and Bull streets. The business changed names and menus twice in the last year and is now closed indefinitely, if not for good.
La Vostra Cucina officially closed prior to Friday lunch, ostensibly to allow for “kitchen maintenance” according to a sign on the front door. Venetico spent time Monday showing the space to at least one group of prospective leasees in anticipation of announcing the closure.
Venetico, who refused comment for this story, owns the building.
Venetico rebranded the restaurant La Vostra Cucina in June, abandoning the concept he adopted last August in changing the name to Bull & Broughton from Il Pasticcio. Bull & Broughton’s menu featured “modern versions of old Southern classics married with a French flair” and was an effort to “capture more business than
Il Pasticcio, with its higher prices and specialized menu” during the economic slump.
The restaurant returned to its Italian roots with La Vostra Cucina. Venetico changed the menu and the chef and took on local food critic Tim Rutherford as a managing partner.
The rebranded eatery showed early potential but was not generating sufficient revenue to continue, according to Rutherford.
“Everything we were doing - the new name, new menu, new chef, new marketing strategy - was going well,” Rutherford said. “Everything was working, just not fast enough.”
Venetico’s presumed departure from the Savannah restaurant scene - presumed because upon Il Pasticcio’s closing two years ago he told customers he planned to go on a “surf” and “snowboard” sabbatical only to reopen the restaurant under the name Broughton & Bull days later - signals the end of an era.
Il Pasticcio’s opening is widely credited for sparking the Broughton Street renaissance.
Broughton is now home to dozens of restaurants, including several fine dining establishments, that cater to both tourists and locals but was desolate after dark when Venetico opened his Italian restaurant in 1992.
“It is always a shame to see any business close, but especially one that played such an integral role in the revitalization of Broughton Street,” said Marti Barrow, executive director of the Savannah Area Tourism Leadership Council. “The tourism industry will certainly miss having this anchor on the corner of Broughton and Bull.”
Venetico move to Savannah in 1987 to serve as the CFO of Intermarine and recognized the potential for an upscale Italian restaurant in a burgeoning tourism destination.
He and his former wife, Floriana, bought the building in 1993 for $350,000, according to Chatham County property tax records. The Veneticos used the upper floors of the building for a gallery and banquet facility as the restaurant grew in the late 1990s.
The second and third floors would later be home to clubs, lounges and restaurants, including the Bull Street Chophouse, an upscale steakhouse. Most recently, the second floor was a special events space known as Zitto Zitto.
Venetico ran into financial troubles along the way, and his struggles became public in October 2009.
His lender on the building that housed Il Pasticcio filed a foreclosure notice on the property. He averted losing the building but went through a personal bankruptcy around the same time. He owns the building through an LLC known as 44 Bull.
Venetico currently owes $85,000 in property taxes on the building, including $71,268.07 in back taxes, according to the Chatham County Tax Commissioner’s website. He last paid his property taxes in 2007, the website shows.